Reflecting on the Friends reunion episode

For many, the show was a huge comfort in anxious times

Friends, a 90’s sitcom about six New Yorkers who happen to be pals. (Flickr/ Geoffrey Chandler)

Where’s the tissue box?  Because I am going to pour out my heart to the whole gang that made my life a happier place. The news of a reunion came like a ray of hope like a crack on a door, finding me in a dark space. The pandemic has affected the headspace of many, and once again, the sitcom did not let us down.

We have been in love with the sitcom for so long. We aspire to live out some elements of it. I am going to take a moment to fangirl about Friends. It has helped me through the worst of times — the sickness, the break-up, the jobless days, and as the six of them sat down after 17 years in a close-knit group, I felt the warmth.

The reunion episode aired on May 27 on Crave and featured a ton of celebrities like Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, James Corden, Tom Selleck, and Malala Yousafzai.

Some people expected the cast to be in their respective characters. However, that’s not what happened. They walked through the set, shared nostalgic moments, read the script, and were interviewed by James Corden.

When I read the number of deaths in India due to COVID-19, I felt like mourning, and I needed a break. When I relocated to a new country, Monica echoed in my mind, “Welcome to the real world. It sucks. You’re going to love it.” And it helped me survive, and it’s not just the characters’ dialogue that stayed with me.

For me, it has been Monica’s cleanliness and independence, Ross’s dedication and patience, Phoebe’s uniqueness and eccentric nature, Joey’s kind heart and affection, and Chandler’s sarcasm and acceptance. The show was ahead of its time, breaking a few stereotypes, and reinforcing others.

Everything that shimmers isn’t all gold. After watching 10 seasons of Friends, I wished to have seen a mixed cast instead of all white.

The show’s treatment and portrayal of transgender and gay communities was another concern, and it did not know how to handle it appropriately. Chandler was often targetted with homophobic comments and insults. His father was constantly ridiculed for being trans, and the show repeatedly made her the victim of insults and jokes.

I also hoped for the show to not play into gender-typical roles like men taking up professions like scientist, data analyst, while females were taking up jobs like cooking, waitressing, and masseuse.

Even though the show added to my comfort space, it isn’t the most culturally appropriate show in today’s era, but some of its messaging still resonates for many teens transitioning to adults.

I learnt about the somewhat problematic concept of friend-zoning through the sitcom. The Rachel and Joey duo taught me that friendships are sometimes more precious than chasing a romantic relationship.

Watching the reunion made me emotional as I knew this was the last thing to look forward to. The last time the six of them will sit together.

Although the show has ended, I often look back to it, revisiting my favourite episodes. The show has been played more than a billion times, and I don’t think I would ever get over it. If I look back on my life in old age, I will remember being stuck due to a global pandemic and watching Friends over and over again.

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